We're just returning to The BRAD BLOG Universal News Headquarters from a couple of weeks on the road with family, during which we spent much of our time off the political grid, trying to look the other way, and otherwise hoping our brain might heal a bit in the bargain following an exceedingly grueling year.
Lots to catch up on before we're back at full speed, but if the news out of the White House was always this much fun perhaps this work wouldn't be so difficult in the first place.
There is no word on whether Dick Cheney was the one who filed the original petition, but the official response from Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, is awesomely geek-worthy and follows in full below. Among other observations, he astutely asks: "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"
There has been much debate over the last several weeks over the inaccurate use of scenes of torture in the new film Zero Dark Thirty to suggest that so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" were key to the capture and ultimate killing of Osama Bin Laden. (See "Zero Dark Thirty's Wrong and Dangerous Conclusion" by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, for example, or Glenn Greenwald's "Zero Dark Thirty: new torture-glorifying film wins raves", which asks "Can a movie that relies on fabrications to generate support for war crimes still be considered great?")
Beyond the question of whether it is appropriate or not to use blatantly false and misleading "dramatic license" in a theatrical film which it's filmmaker describes as employing "almost a journalistic approach to film", there is another troubling issue that seems to be getting lost in the debate.
It is disturbing, if not altogether surprising, to find an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Times recently, discussing the film, and its related "debate" amongst Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. Senate Intelligence over "the value of 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'"
The topic is one we have covered extensively here at The BRAD BLOG --- coverage that has included a five-part series on the history of CIA torture and a dire warning that the very survival of our Constitutional Democracy could hinge on justified prosecutions of those who previously ordered or engaged in torture.
In early 2009, in "Fixing the Facts and Legal Opinions Around the Torture Policy," I took dead aim at the sophistry employed by President Barack Obama to evade his constitutionally mandated obligation to see that the laws are faithfully executed. The same Harvard Law School-educated President who said that, in torture, America had lost its "moral bearings," suggested we must only look forward, not back. As I noted at the time, it was an "illogical formulation [that] was incompatible with the very essence of the rule of law."
Those prosecutions were not forthcoming, and, as a result, we find two writers at Los Angeles Times discussing the dispute triggered by the movie, Zero Dark Forty, over the efficacy of torture without so much as a passing reference to the fact that torture is a crime under both U.S. and international law.
This woefully deficient "coverage" drew a sharp and very personal response, given my family's history, by way of a Letter to the Editor I wrote to the paper, which they recently edited, and then published...
Regarding the "2nd Amendment protects us from tyranny" argument: Let's think about the so-called Patriot Act. That law isn't some right-wing paranoid fantasy about "Obama will take our guns!" or black helicopters or blue-helmeted UN troops putting us in concentration camps. That law is a REAL infringement on our liberties. Under the still-in-effect Patriot Act, the fed. govt. can, at any time and without having to provide any reason, cry "National Security!" and arrest us without warrant or charges, imprison us indefinitely, hold us incommunicado, deny us legal representation, search our homes, persons, cars, papers, email, phone records, snail mail, etc. in secret and without a warrant, take away our right to Habeas Corpus (the right to go before a judge to contest our imprisonment), send us to foreign nations for "interrogation" by the authorities of said foreign nation (read "torture"), and a host of other liberty-destroying provisions too numerous to list here.
Where was the NRA while the Patriot Act was being passed? Where are they now while it's still in effect?
Most importantly, why didn't our right to bear arms protect us from this drastic, powerful, and seemingly permanent destruction of many of our Constitutional liberties??
Look, if gun owners really and truly want to protect our liberties, they should put down their guns and get politically active. Guns did not protect us and would not have protected us from the Patriot Act. Only active engagement in our political system would have or could still save us from the Patriot Act and/or other infringements of our liberties.
P.S. Forgot to add, I'm a gun owner. But I try (in my very small and limited way) to protect liberty not by carrying my gun everywhere but by being actively engaged in the political process.
We'd add only one other thought for now: Where does the 2nd Amendment, or any other, afford anybody the "civil liberty" of buying and purchasing as many semi-assault rifles, boxes of ammo and high-capacity magazines as they want without restriction or regulation? We can't seem to find that in our copy of the U.S. Constitution and, though we've asked, no one has yet identified for us where that "liberty" is enumerated.
That said, Heller's point above is probably far more important.
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Snow is BACK! Winter returns to parched Midwest; Time's "Person of the Year" promises action on climate change, but can he deliver?; Good and Bad 2012: top environmental stories of the year; PLUS: It's the end of the Mayan Apocalypse Myth as we know it! (And we feel fine) ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): WSJ's climate "dynamite" is a dud; U.S. Electric Grid 2030: 100% renewable, 90% of the time; 333 straight warmer than "normal" months; U.K. dash a test for global fracking; 'Peak Farmland' as a good thing; China to overhaul solar industry; Keystone XL won't use advanced spill equipment; Sea otters vs. commercial fishermen; MoJo's Eco-Doom Headline Generator; To the Moon!: yes we can grow plants in space ... PLUS: We'll 'never run this economy on renewables' --- and why we'll never have to ... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio here in Los Angeles, we dealt with, what, if anything, will now be done in the wake of the latest mass shootings in Newtown, CT, and if the lies and propaganda and bullying of the NRA will finally be overcome --- or not.
Desi Doyen joins us for a brief history of how the NRA changed in 1977 from a 100-year old gun safety organization, to a Republican political operation, as well as for the latest Green News Report.
Plus, we got to a lot of phone callers with opinions on all of this, including an NRA member who says he'll be quitting the group; an NRA instructor who says we're absolutely right about what the NRA has become; a caller disagrees that any more gun laws are needed, because it would "allow the wolf in the door", or some such; and even a surprise call from our pal, the great progressive trouble-maker Cliff Schecter. Enjoy!
We're busy with today's BradCast on KPFK, so, until later, here are a few items that may, or may not, matter to you this afternoon...
• President Obama names Vice-President Biden to head up a task force to work on new gun safety regulations to be submitted to him by January. Press conference transcript here.
• Supreme Court rulings on what gun control measures are allowed by the 2nd Amendment are actually quite narrow and leave a lot of room for further interpretation and rulings. Here's a quick legal analysis of where the court seems to stand at the moment.
• 3 State Dept. officials resign after a report on Benghazi attack finds "grossly inadequate" security measures at the U.S. consulate on the night Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed last September 11th. "We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability," said report panelist Adm. Mike Mullen. In response, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton accepted all 29 of the panel's recommendations, while nursing her reported recent concussion that has, to date, kept her from testifying to Congress on the matter.
• Something or other occurred today in regards to the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations, but we couldn't care less what it was. At this point, after Sandy Hook, the "fiscal cliff" stupidity feels a whole lot like the "Summer of Sharks" did, in retrospect, after 9/11. Of course, after Obama's prepared remarks at his presser on guns today, the D.C. press wanted to ask him, almost exclusively, about "fiscal cliff" bullshit. Same as it ever was.
"If we're going to get past this almost hysterical fear of trying to do anything at all on gun rights," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked on Friday during her breaking coverage of the mass shootings at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT, "if we're going to try to puncture the myth that anything to reform or rationalize gun laws is absolutely, politically impossible as a categorical thing, what would happen if we just started at the edges?"
"What would happen if we just started with what even members of the NRA say they want from national gun laws? Because they want a hell of a lot more than we've got right now," she correctly noted. "The organization that they're a member of may not admit that, but when you poll their members, even they want improvements."
She is absolutely right. And so is the rank and file membership of the National Rifle Association when it comes to many of the most pressing gun safety issues. The numbers (read on) are unequivocal. They want what their leadership does not, and by huge margins. The con-men and scam-artists who run the terrorist-enabling NRA racket, on the other hand, as usual, are absolutely bloody wrong.
If we could reform gun safety laws just enough in this country to meet the wishes of the vast majority of the NRA membership, we would be leaps and bounds beyond the deadly political quagmire we have been languishing in as a nation --- thanks to the insidious liars and profiteers of the NRA leadership and the cowardly politicians afraid to take them on --- for at least a decade in this country.
The NRA's loudest and most dishonest voice is its Executive VP and chief political strategist Wayne LaPierre. He is opposed to any and all legislation that might stand a chance of making Americans safer, claiming a twisted and tortured view of the Bill of Right's 2nd Amendment as a prohibition against any and all such legislation...
Merry Christmas from the White House and the NRA...
UPDATES: Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle and others weapons used in mass murder legally purchased and registered; Newtown, CT elementary school shooting 2nd deadliest in U.S. history, most came since NRA helped loosen laws; Tearful President speaks in Brady Press Room, calls for 'meaningful action regardless of politics', fails to offer specifics...
UPDATE 12:14pm PT: According to AP, at this hour, there are 27 dead at the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, including 18 children, most of them kindergarteners, making this the second deadliest shooting in U.S. history. Which means, according to BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski, that "of the 12 deadliest shooting attacks in US history, six have occurred since 2007."
In other words, the six of the most deadly shootings in our history all happened in the years since the NRA was so successful in assuring the Reagan-era assault-weapons ban was ended and other gun laws were loosened and struck down entirely across the country.
As of this week, all 50 states now allow concealed guns to be carried. But, according to the terrorist-enabling NRA and its cowardly supporters, the solution is for still more people to carry guns (the Republican MI legislature approved a new law allowing guns in schools just last night) so we all keep getting safer and safer. Right?
The NRA plan to make America safer: Everyone get a gun. Wait for someone in bullet-proof armor to use a semi-automatic assualt rifle to shoot 60 people in a crowd in 90 seconds or so. Someone try to shoot them. That plan is perfect! No downsides at all.
UPDATE 12:21pm PT: President Obama just spoke in the Brady Press Room, named for Ronald Reagan's Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head during the assassination attempt on Reagan, and the man for whom the now expired assault weapons ban, supported by Reagan and signed by George H.W. Bush, was named.
In terse remarks, while fighting back tears, the President said: "We've endured too many of these tragedies these past few years...We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
He offered no suggestions, at this time, for that "meaningful action".
UPDATE 1:20pm PT: Number of children said killed, among the 27 shot by suspect, increased to 20.
Also, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein on MSNBC says 30 people are killed by guns every day in the U.S. 11,000 per year. "The equivalent of a jumbo jet going down every week in this country."
UPDATE 3:27pm PT:According to NBC News: "Weapons used in shooting were legally purchased and registered to gunman's mother, law enforcement officials tell NBC News ". Thanks for the great work, NRA con-men!
UPDATE 3:40pm PT: Fox "News" confirms weapons used were legally purchased and registered by shooter's mother (who was also killed). They (and CNN) report one weapon was a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle made by Bushmaster. Here's the Bushmaster 2012 catalog. Note the bottom of their website includes two different links to the NRA.
Here's a video of a .223 Bushmaster AR-15, similar to the one reportedly used in the killing of 27 in CT today, firing at 100 yards...
UPDATE 9:51pm PT: There seems to be quiet a bit of confusion, and conflicting information, about the type of weapons used in the mass shooting today. So let's try to clear that up a bit, with what we're able to learn at this hour...
• Whodathunkit? But questions arise about the legitimacy of the claims made by Fox' latest wannabe James O'Keefe, about that video purporting to show an "unprovoked attack" by "union thugs" outside the capital building in Lansing, MI this week. The most amazing part? Someone at The New York Times --- yes, thatNew York Times --- is one of those actually noticing the big honkin' edit in the middle of the video, rather than just reporting it all as unquestioned fact.
• Eric Holder spoke about the need to protect voting rights at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. We have more than a few bones to pick about it, but we'll just point you to the actual speech for the moment.
• Finally, for now, the critically acclaimed Zero Dark Thirty, the new theatrical film about the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, reportedly glorifies the torture that led to his capture and killing, even though no torture whatsoever actually led to his capture and killing.
For the second time in a week, conservative Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is breaking with his party on a hot button issue.
Last Tuesday, Cole made headlines for disagreeing with House Speaker John Boehner and advising his fellow Republicans to accept President Barack Obama’s offer to immediately extend tax cuts on incomes under $250,000, while negotiating a broader deal involving tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
During a Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s This Week, Cole offered his advice on the other issue that has animated Republicans in the weeks since the election: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s response to the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, and her potential nomination as Secretary of State.
When Dan Senor — the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during the Iraq War, and the chief foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney — suggested investigating “whether or not Susan Rice should be blamed” for the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks, Cole reminded Senor of the Bush administration’s false claims that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
“We saw President Bush out front defending something wasn’t true too,” Cole noted. “Maybe we should ask those guys some questions too.”
In both cases, Cole is not adopting the Democratic position; he opposes raising tax rates for the wealthy, and he does not appear to support Rice (although he did not say whether or not he would vote to confirm her if he were in the Senate.) Instead, Cole seems to be trying to divert his party from embracing hopeless political positions. Just as Cole correctly identified that the White House has all of the leverage in the tax cut debate, so too does he seem to realize that a public battle over Rice could lead to some very uncomfortable questions about the Bush administration’s record — a history that the Republican Party would rather stay buried.
Video of the ABC This Week moment mentioned above, from 12/2/2012, follows below...
After four years of lousy bills, or lack thereof, brought about through unnecessary concessions, it seems as though the President has finally learned something, at least: how to make an opening bid in a negotiation.
As Josh Marshall aptly described the two party's relative positions in the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations (the specifics of which are broken down by Ezra Klein at the bottom of this article for anybody, understandably, not paying attention to all of this silliness):
There’s no way to understand the jousting and positioning over the ‘fiscal cliff’ without understanding the following facts: Both President Obama and congressional Republicans are moving right along to the edge of the cliff. Both say they’re ready to go over the edge. Only President Obama is gliding along in a hot air balloon and John Boehner and co. are on foot. So the repercussions over going over the edge are quite different. And both sides know it.
The take away here is that it's a welcome change of pace that Obama not only seems to understand his upper hand in these negotiations, but he's finally learned to actually negotiate on that basis this time around.
One of our earliest and most consistent complaints about Obama has been his embarrassingly dreadful negotiation skills. In fact, that was one of our earliest documented complaints about him, way back in April of 2007.
We were reminded once again about his lousy negotiation skills in August of 2011 when he gave away the store during that year's "hostage crisis," as Congressional Republicans were then holding the routine matter of voting to raise the debt ceiling --- and both the American and global economy along with it --- hostage to extreme spending cuts.
Here's what we wrote in 2011, harkening back to our initial warning about Obama's horrific negotiation skills back in 2007...
Why isn't the FBI or the Justice Department investigating the "widespread voter fraud" that a number of Rightwingers are claiming enabled Barack Obama to win the 2012 election?
The simplest answer is that there is nothing to investigate --- at least no evidence to suggest as much at this time. Lacking such evidence, such fishing expeditions are a waste of taxpayer money, particularly when the evidence of "fraud" forwarded by Republicans to date is easily dispatched with little more than a Google search and a few clicks of the mouse.
All existing evidence suggests that President Obama soundly defeated Mitt Romney by an electoral vote margin of 332-206, and a popular vote margin of 50.9-47.4 percent. Yet, the myth that "widespread voter fraud" swung the election for Obama continues to persist on Rightwing web sites and blogs. These myths are usually divorced from the facts altogether or grounded in baseless speculation.
Let's take a look at four of the most popular myths currently being trumpeted by the Rightwingers...
Lisa Graves, of The Center for Media and Democracy [CMD], is "asking citizens to contact their Senator and demand hearings on the way 'dark money' has stealthily influenced the election." The CMD's proposal includes a specific demand that Charles and David Koch be subpoenaed to testify --- something which, Graves explains, the oil and chemical magnate brothers evaded some 15 years ago when U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) blocked efforts to force them to testify about their use of front groups to influence elections.
Unlike the GOP, whose calls for "Watergate-style" Benghazi hearings have been described as "political theater," the incoming 55-member Senate Democratic Caucus is in a position to conduct a broad and thorough set of hearings that could expose the ever-present threat to the very survival of democratic governance by what former Vice President Henry A. Wallace described as "the American fascist."
Coming within the context of near universal opposition to the flood of corporate money that drown out the voices of ordinary citizens, such hearings could also serve to catapult growing calls to not only overturn the infamous Citizens United decision but to end the concept of "corporate personhood" and establish that money is not "free speech."
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT:Some justice in the Gulf: Record fines for BP in Gulf Oil Spill disaster; October 2012 the 2nd hottest on record; CA launches landmark cap-and-trade system; PLUS: The Superstorm Sandy Effect: Obama says it's time to tackle climate change --- sort of ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Refineries ran while 'offline,' yet gas prices rose; British government files charges against nuclear waste plant owners; Scientists show changing wind patterns are key driver of Antarctica's growing sea ice; EU climate head wants Obama to pull his weight in global warming talks... PLUS: Energy Independence: In Germany, everyone can be an energy producer ... and much, MUCH more! ...